'Hunter falls from tree, sues property owner'

Last modified: 7/21/2011 12:00:00 AM
A hunter who fell from a tree stand on an Epsom man's property is now suing the landowner for negligence.

William Jasmin of Manchester fell about 20 feet from a faulty tree stand on Charles Corliss's Center Hill Road property in November 2009, according to his lawyer B.J. Branch. Branch said Jasmin broke several bones in the fall and was left partially paralyzed. Jasmin is seeking medical damages in excess of $100,000, according to his lawyer.

But attorneys on each side of the case, filled in Hillsborough County Superior Court, provide dramatically differing accounts of what happened that day in Epsom.

According to Branch, Jasmin and two friends received permission to hunt on Corliss's property under the stipulation they shoot as many coyotes as possible.

Corliss's lawyer, J. Brandon Giuda, says that conversation never took place and the first time Corliss heard from Jasmin was when he was served with a lawsuit in April. Corliss is also being represented through his insurance company by Mark Mallory.

"My client is an elderly, retired gentleman who is being sued by an irresponsible person who is trying to get around an immunity statute that we put in for the good of the state and the good of hunting in the state," Giuda said.

New Hampshire state law limits the liability of landowners as a way to encourage them to open their property to others for recreational use. According to the law, landowners are not required to "keep such premises safe for entry or use" or give warning of hazardous conditions or structures.

But Branch said the agreement he asserts was made between Jasmin and Corliss dissolves the landowner's immunity.

"It's one thing to just wander onto someone's land and be hurt," Branch said. "It's another thing when they invite you onto the land. . . . We argue that there is no immunity because there was a benefit conferred at the request of the landlord."

He also claims Corliss gave Jasmin specific consent to use the tree stand, which collapsed underneath the hunter as he was trying to buckle a safety belt. While state law stipulates landowners are not liable for hazardous structures on their property, Branch says the tree stand is not protected, because it is not a permanent fixture.

He said the fall left Jasmin with multiple spine and rib fractures, a contusion to his left lung and partial paralysis on one side of his body.

He acknowledged that Jasmin had been drinking on the day of the accident but said he had only consumed one 16-ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and was at or below the legal limit for intoxication. He added that because of Jasmin's serious blood loss, the blood alcohol test may not have been accurate.

Giuda said Corliss does not maintain a tree stand on his property and did not give Jasmin permission to be on the property.

"My client is an elderly man who hasn't hunted in many, many years and he's never met these people," Giuda said. "We dispute everything they say. . . . I think this will be a short-lived case. "

Court depositions in the case are scheduled for Aug. 1, according to Branch.

(Tricia Nadolny can be reached at 369-3320 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com.)

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